x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UAE’s millions in aid encourage Sudanese to find better lives

The way forward: According to the UAE Red Crescent, the aid will focus on infrastructure projects and building permanent homes for 60,000 people displaced by a decade of civil war.

The UAE has given Sudan more than Dh126 million in humanitarian aid since 1995. Last year alone the country gave more than Dh18m, up from Dh11m in 2011.

In October, the UAE Red Crescent pledged a further Dh10m to the western Darfur region.

The charity said the funds would  focus on infrastructure projects and building permanent homes for 60,000 people displaced by the civil war fought over much of the last decade. Almost 1.2 million people in Darfur were displaced by the war between the Sudanese government and rebel movements in Darfur between 2003 and 2010.

“Darfur saw some very difficult times,” said Othman Jafar, the Sudanese Red Crescent’s secretary general in October.

Dr Mohamed Al Falahi, the general secretary of the UAE Red Crescent, said the money would be used to build two compounds in north and south Darfur.

Each will accommodate 30,000 people, with a school, a clinic, a well, a water tank, and a mosque.

“We will work on infrastructure to encourage those displaced to go home,” said Dr Al Falahi.

Mr Jafar said the compounds could be expanded in the future to house more people. “The UAE has helped a lot in Sudan, through the Red Crescent and other means,” he said. “Dh10m … is a huge amount.”

“This is very little compared with what they have really given to us. They have helped in development and agriculture projects in the country. Also during the times of flooding, the UAE was always one of the first to respond.”

Sheikha Shamsa bint Hamdan, the wife of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister, has funded an orphanage in the region, which now houses more than 4,000 children.

Work on the new homes will begin immediately, and the project should take no more than a year to complete.

“There are still security problems, but these areas are safe,” Mr Jafar said.

Dr Al Falahi stressed that infrastructure was the most important thing for the country.

Mr Jafar said the UAE and some other Arab nations were the only ones to keep this in mind. Other humanitarian organisations were focused only on improving conditions in refugee camps.

“The UAE and some Arab countries found the solution not in tents, but to build places for people to go back to,” he said. “This will help to create stability.”

The Emirates has long expended significant diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in Sudan, cementing deep relations between the two countries.

In 2009, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, mediated between Sudan and Chad during a border dispute.

And during the  catastrophic flooding of the Nile in 1988 the UAE established its first “air bridge” for relief materials and aid to Sudan on the orders of the late president, Sheikh Zayed.

The UAE commissioned a mobile hospital that treated 6,500 patients in southern Sudan in 2009. Noor Dubai, a project to treat patients with visual disabilities, also opened a branch in Sudan.

The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development lent Sudan US$367m (Dh1.30 billion) to help build the Merowe Dam, which supplies power and helps with agricultural irrigation.

The project was inaugurated by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, in 2009.

In 2008, the fund also lent the Sudanese government $100m to help Sudan balance its budget, and in the same year it dispatched relief aid to Sudanese flood victims.

newsdesk@thenational.ae